On November 5, 2020, Foresight hosted a circular bioeconomy panel discussion in partnership with Natural Resources Canada.
The discussion was moderated by Beth MacNeil, Assistant Deputy Minister of Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada, who was joined by industry and finance experts within the bioeconomy ecosystem to form a well-rounded panel:
- Neil Huff, Vice President, Business Development, FPInnovations
- Tammy Huston, Global Accounts Director – Cleantech, Export Development Canada
- Gurminder Minhas, Managing Director, Performance BioFilaments
- Shirley Speakman, Senior Partner, Cycle Capital
The panelists set out to discuss the bioeconomy, to see what they thought were the greatest opportunities for Canada to capture more value in the bio-products value chain and what might be the roadblocks to achieving a sustainable bioeconomy quickly.
Why the Circular Bioeconomy?
Bioeconomy is the production of biological resources – for example from marine, forestry, or agriculture based industries – and the conversion of these resources into value added, renewable based bioproducts, biocomposites and materials that are more highly recyclable and less harmful compared to current alternatives.
It is a growing market, driven by policy and increasing demand from the private sector ranging from bio-based material for recyclable packaging, bioplastics for car parts to bio-based alternatives for construction materials.
A Fragmented Value Chain with Enormous Potential
Overall, the panelists came out strongly in support of the vision of a circular bioeconomy as a way to meet sustainability and climate goals and while paving the way toward a full-scale economic resurgence and recovery. Here were some key takeaways from the discussion:
- Bioeconomy exists on a small scale in various regions and markets across Canada. However, to realize the full vision of the bioeconomy, it will require much more communication and inter-connection across the whole value chain.
- Fragmented Value Chain -Converting biomass into value-added products (e.g. electricity, transportation fuels, bio-chemicals, bio-plastics, bio-materials and engineered building products) profitably and within the framework of transitioning to a low carbon, circular economy, is hugely complex and involves multiple actors in the ecosystem. At the moment, this ecosystem is fragmented.
For example, manufacturers may be looking for reliable feedstock supply outside of Canada and not realizing local opportunities for collaboration (and as a result, we may not be extracting the optimal value from our natural resources). Innovators and tech suppliers are developing solutions in isolation and having difficulties finding opportunities, investment or customers.No one is taking an active role to identify these strategic and communication gaps and connect the complex ecosystem.
- New Products and Technology has to fit customer needs – SME’s and startups need support (mentorship, training, market development programming) to ensure they are talking to customers as early on in the process as possible and developing solutions based on a real need in the marketplace.
Potential customers of biomaterials are seeking solutions, and may need help sourcing them. More programs are required to match industry with solution providers and shorten the innovation cycle – Foresight aims to do exactly this at our upcoming event where industry leaders will be called on to pitch their pressing bioeconomy needs to the ecosystem who can offer solutions.
Our panelists reminded us that the full vision of a bioeconomy will require biomaterial and bioproduct innovations and that takes time & the 3 Ps – Patience, Perseverance, Persistence!
Join us for the Reverse Pitch event on Dec 3 & 4, 2020 “Closing the Loop on Circular Bioeconomy Innovation”.
Hear from industry leaders like Suzano on their bio-based packaging needs, and LaFarge Canada as it seeks bio-based alternatives with cementitious properties.
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